Job descriptions are one of the best ways to assess if the industry or company you are interested in is actually a good fit for you. Short of speaking directly with the hiring manager, job descriptions, if read properly, can give applicants significant insight into company culture and help readers better understand what the company is really looking for from its employees. That said, it takes an experienced eye to read between the lines of job descriptions. At Next Wave, we help our students decode job descriptions and help give them the confidence these need to read past the sometimes discouraging experience requirements to unlock the careers of their dreams. To do this, we’ve identified 5 things every college applicant should keep in mind when looking at a job description.
1. Words matter, so read and use them carefully
Companies spend millions of dollars each year on brand management and marketing. The words used in a job description are the result of significant thought and financial investments and are intended to reflect the company’s vision of itself. With that in mind, none of the words on the page are there by accident. Armed with this knowledge, be sure to thoroughly read and process every word in the job description. When possible, identify methods to incorporate this vocabulary, where appropriate, in your own resume, cover letter, and interviews, for this company, so you can begin to feel familiar to the recruiter and hiring manager who has also likely added these words to their own lexicon.
2. Don’t skip the ‘About the Company’ section
While it might seem natural to immediately jump to the requirements section, it is really important to read the ‘About the Company’ section of a job description. You might think you know what Google or Goldman Sachs does, but this section of the job description gives you significant insight into what that division of the company does and how it connects to the company’s overall mission. This is important because it is where the company, in its own words, describes what they do and who they are. If the ‘About the Company’ section is not worth reading, than how truly interested in the company are you?
3. Qualifications are flexible (sometimes)
The biggest obstacle for undergraduates seeking internships and full-time jobs is that even entry-level positions still require work experience. Stringent requirements written into job descriptions often discourage even the most experience potential candidates. That said, many recruiters have indicated that just because it says you need 2-3 years of experience, that doesn’t mean you always do. Additionally, professional experience is not always required to meet the experience threshold. If you have student club, volunteer, or research experience it is often possible to meet the requirements associated with an entry-level role. Next Wave’s rule of thumb is to develop the best possible application, apply, and let the company decide if you are qualified.
4. Responsibilities aren’t a suggestion
Unlike qualifications, key responsibilities are not negotiable and are a core staple of the job description. If you cannot perform or are uninterested in the key responsibilities of the job than it probably isn’t the right fit, even if you love the company. Undergraduates often make the mistake of thinking that taking any entry-level job at a company they love is a good way to get their‘foot in the door’. Those students often end up in roles that they do not enjoy and their work, and impressions of their dream company suffer. This often limits their ability to pivot to another division of the company that they might be more interested in. Take the responsibilities seriously and if you don’t like them, than look for a role that better aligns with your interests.
5. Boring now will be worse later
Lastly, if you cannot read the entire job description without rolling your eyes, skipping sections, or falling asleep than this job, the company, or industry may not be the right fit for you. Reading job descriptions should be an exciting exercise that you feel completely engrossed by. If it is not, you are likely looking in the wrong place. Trust your instincts and move on to the next role if you find yourself not completely interested in the job.
It is important to remember that finding your first internship or full-time job is often not a walk in the park. Very few people read their first job description and fall in love with the job. The more job descriptions you read, the less intimidating they become and the more likely you are to identify the things you truly will enjoy. Take the reading of each job description as an opportunity to learn and improve on your flaws.